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Fatal hit-and-run marks latest in uptick seen in Palm Beach County

43-year-old man latest to be killed while trying to cross Okeechobee Boulevard
Posted at 12:40 AM, Dec 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-13 08:27:24-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County deputies are searching for the driver in what marks the fourth fatal hit-and-run in the county in about a month.

The latest incident happened Monday just after 5 a.m. along Okeechobee Boulevard near Indian Road.

Deputies said the pedestrian attempted to cross Okeechobee Boulevard from the center median, when a car traveling eastbound on the boulevard struck the man.

The driver left the scene and continued driving eastbound on Okeechobee Boulevard.

The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene by Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.

"It's kind of scary," said Shiloh Robinson, who works not far from where it happened.

Robinson said he often sees accidents on that stretch of road.

"Police cars driving by, ambulances. I work near I-95, so I pretty much see it all," Robinson said.

Monday's incident comes just three days after another fatal hit-and-run in the county.

West Palm Beach police and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue were called to a bicyclist who was struck and killed by a swerving driver Friday on Okeechobee Boulevard near the Publix on Sansbury's Way.

Police said the car drove into the bicycle lane, hitting and killing a 61-year-old man riding his bike. The driver fled the scene.

"No intention of slowing down. Did not stop. Struck the bicyclist and kept on going," Mike Jachles, a spokesman for the West Palm Beach Police Department, said, adding that the driver was obviously impaired.

The two hit-and-runs mark now four that have happened in Palm Beach County in the past month.

On Nov. 28, a motorcyclist was hit and killed by a driver who fled in Riviera Beach.

A week earlier, another person was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Palm Springs.

The concerning milestone came as no surprise to Travis Lewis, who owns Tows Are Us, a towing company in Royal Palm Beach.

"I see it kind of often," Lewis said. "Like, every week, every week and a half, I see a hit-and-run that we're towing somewhere, whether it's to the customer's house or it's back here."

Lewis said the frequency of hit-and-run incidents is something he hasn't seen before.

"It seems to be an increase to me," Lewis said.

According to data WPTV obtained from Palm Beach County's Traffic and Engineering Division, the number of fatal hit-and-runs in the county has gone up in 2022 compared with the previous year. It's nearly doubled in 2022 compared with 2020.

"It seems like it happens a lot here in Florida," Lewis said.

Lewis said one of his driver's experienced a hit-and-run just three weeks earlier.

"My driver was out of the truck unloading a car and someone tried to squeeze through, hit the front bumper of my flatbed and took off," Lewis said.

The Martin County Sheriff's Office is also seeing an uptick in hit-and-runs, particularly now, when more out-of-state drivers are down south. Martin County is forming a task force to combat the uptick, something Lewis said he hopes comes to Palm Beach County.

"We definitely have to do something about it," he said.

Lewis said with the uptick, he's afraid he could become the next statistic if something isn't done.

"We're trying to help somebody on I-95 or the turnpike and cars are speeding by," Lewis said. "I believe if they cracked down on it, people would tend to not leave the scene, and that would help us all in the long run."

Deputies are now asking anyone who knows anything to call 561-681-4537.